Door County Environment – Sustainable Pulse Profile: Vinni Chomeau

The first step to “going green” is to actually take a step into the great outdoors, said Vinni Chomeau, coordinator of Gibraltar School’s Friends of Gibraltar (FOG) program.

Chomeau is incorporating that philosophy to further environmental education for Gibraltar students.

Each year FOG picks a theme and throughout the school year they implement classes and activities to help students learn about that topic. This year Chomeau has built their programs around sustainability. Students will learn how to be more sustainable at school, at home, and they will be given the informational tools they need to carry that theme forward in their lives with things like alternative energy classes.

The sustainability theme is two-fold. In addition to learning how to live greener, Chomeau has devised a program focused on getting kids more involved with nature.

“The idea behind it is that kids don’t really get outdoors enough,” Chomeau explained. “People assume that in Door County, because of all the nature surrounding us here, kids are outside all the time, but it’s just not like that. I think that ‘being green’ also means learning about nature, and feeling connected to it. If kids don’t feel that connection and have that outdoor experience, then they really don’t feel a need to conserve it.”

To implement these ideas, Gibraltar will have an outdoor classroom where students and teachers will learn from naturalists about things like geology and bird watching and through classes like creative writing and poetry taught outdoors.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a degree in Environmental Science, Chomeau worked for the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department for three years before taking over FOG. She remains passionate about nature and displays that passion at work and at home.

In the backyard: Chomeau’s four acres include a vegetable garden and a lawn free of pesticides and fertilizer.

The grocery cart: For produce she can’t grow, Chomeau tries to buy local and organic with organic cotton totes emblazoned with the words “Recycle Door County,” designed by Gibraltar graduate Kelsey Nedderson.

Around the house: The Chomeaus use compact fluorescent bulbs for lights and recycle or compost everything they can. “I have my daughter do art projects with things I’d otherwise throw away, like yogurt cups, which cuts back on trash.” Chomeau said. “I also re-use some of her paintings and drawings for things like wrapping paper.”

Thinking small: “We live in a very small cottage which we had to winterize,” she said. “We’re thinking of putting on a small addition and we’re looking into green options for building…my thinking is that it’s better to start small and add on to what you have instead of trashing it and building from the ground up. That just seems so wasteful to me…you have to use what you have intentionally well.”

Getting there: Chomeau cuts back on gas by biking to work.

Looking forward: “I took some Natural Step classes with Sustain Door, and I got certified to lead study circles.” Chomeau explained. “I would really like to lead some at Gibraltar, starting with teachers and the school board and then eventually for the students as well.”